Friday, July 9, 2010

Palin's Worst Enemy

Andrew Sullivan is an insightful writer on many different subjects. Sarah Palin is not one of them. For the past few months, Palin has kept popping up as an object of Andrew's attention, often in conjunction with the rumors concerning Trig Palin's birth, which is an entirely uninteresting story to me. He's also quite bullish on her chances of national success: this is a typical post in this vein.

I'm not sure exactly what about Sully's analysis bothers me--I don't think he has a problem with strong women per se, though he does have his blind spots as we all do. But when writing about Palin, he seems to be writing about a different Palin than the one I've observed. Palin certainly could win the nomination--and the presidency--though the odds are quite low. Perhaps marginally higher than Romney's, who I think would lose to Obama somewhere in the neighborhood of 57-41 in the popular vote if nominated, but still a long shot. I have gone over why I don't think Palin will win several times before, but since it's on my brain because of Sully, I'll do a quick top-five list.
  1. She doesn't have the work ethic. Palin's lax administration as mayor of Wasilla turned a small town into a strip-mall, big box suburban nightmare. She was famously disengaged as governor (Lyda Green is a very funny woman, BTW), and as soon as the job got tough she quit. There is little evidence that she'd work hard to secure the GOP nomination or win the election. I just can't see Palin groveling to precinct captains and county commissioners so as to gain access to their turnout machinery. Undoubtedly she'd hope for an Obama-style grassroots drive to appear on the right to propel her to victory, which could happen, but anyone who knows knows that the Obama Movement in 2008 didn't just happen out of thin air, but rather as a result of the extremely hard work of David Plouffe. Which leads to the next point...

  2. She's a poor administrator. I guess I sort of made the case up there, but I'll add to it. Part of being a good administrator is being a good judge of talent and character. Palin's inner circle should be a reflection of that. And that circle includes...Randy Scheunemann and Fred Malek. The former was a McCain campaign washout, and the latter of whom has a nickname that sounds like something Quentin Tarantino made up for Inglourious Basterds: "The Jew Counter" (seriously, look it up). I'm sure these guys have their skills, but running a successful national campaign? I'm skeptical.

  3. She has no new vision. Barack Obama is instructive here. He offered the appealing notion of getting past all that Boomer baggage and toxic Bush-era partisanship, a noble if perhaps too optimistic notion. But people liked hearing it. Palin offers a return to all that. Obama offered a commitment to social justice, while Palin offers business as usual. Obama is a powerful communicator, but Palin just isn't. Not that it matters, as her message is pretty toxic to most people. I do believe that America is a conservative country on the whole, but it has little in common with the Tea Party form of conservatism. I tend to think that a Sam's Club conservatism that combines social conservatism with more generous economic policies would make the Republicans practically unbeatable--at least for a decade or two, until this happens--as that seems to be pretty much in line with where America is now. That's the sort of conservatism America possesses. But it's not Palin's conservatism at all, which might be why so much of the country hates her. Don't people actually have to tolerate you a little bit to win?

  4. She's in a weak position. Some people want to compare Palin to Hillary Clinton, but the truth is that her position now and Clinton's before 2008 are quite different. Clinton was the clear frontrunner up until the primaries started, typically with leads of 20-30 points over her opponents. Palin trails badly in the polls, both nationally and in the early primary states, in a party that almost never rewards insurgent candidacies. Romney's base is among the GOP's business classes which is where the money is (and quite frequently the nomination as well). In addition, Palin's hopes to pull off an Obama-style insurgency are dampened by the Republican nomination schedule, which is light on caucuses and heavy on primaries. Without the caucuses, Obama would not have clinched the nomination. Her only hope of winning is to drag Romney's numbers down by going negative, but Romney will likely do the same to Palin, which should be interesting as she's received the kid-glove treatment both from her party and the media. She doesn't take criticism all that well.
And that's my case. Palin does have talent as a performer, as Andrew says. But she is who she is. She's her own worst enemy. And she's going to keep herself from the White House.

Postscript: Mr. Larison makes the Giuliani connection that I've been making for quite some time, and he's right on the money:
An important difference in their promotions by the media is that Giuliani was promoted as a serious candidate because many journalists and pundits liked him or at least respected some of the things he had done in New York, and Palin is being built up as a contender because many journalists and pundits both fear what she represents and assume that the GOP is so far gone that she is its natural leader. They overestimate her chances to the extent that they underestimate Republicans’ instinct for self-preservation and survival. Palin may not run at all, but if she does my guess is that her campaign will flame out almost as spectacularly as his did. When it comes time to vote for a nominee for President, most of her admirers are not actually going to vote for her. Many of the people who view her favorably will prefer someone else as their nominee, and in any case many of her admirers don’t think she is qualified.
The media isn't appreciably liberal in most respects, though it does have the typical cosmopolitan condescension toward the flyover country. Larison puts it nicely here.

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.